Book review: ‘Giving Thanks and Letting Go: Reflections on the Gift of Motherhood’
“Giving Thanks and Letting Go: Reflections on the Gift of Motherhood.” By Danielle Bean. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2020. 109 pages. Paperback: $14.95; Kindle: $8.99; Nook: $7.99.
Danielle Bean is no novice when it comes to writing about motherhood. Her previous books include “Small Steps for Catholic Moms” and “Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood.” In these, she wrote about life lived in the thick of raising children. Now, in her latest book, “Giving Thanks and Letting Go,” Bean turns her attention to the next stage of motherhood – the time when those same children grow up and leave home, taking large chunks of a mother’s heart with them.
Perhaps the greatest asset Bean brings to this book, as she has brought to her others, is her genuineness and authenticity. The reader is made to feel as if he or she is sitting at the author’s table, drinking coffee and having a good talk with an old friend.
Admittedly, different readers will relate to what she says in different ways. Those whose children are still at home – whether toddlers, teenagers or anything in between – will certainly relate to the “in-the-trenches” stories she tells. They will do so, I suspect, with a knowing nod of the head at how well she has captured their current, everyday lives. However, for readers whose children have already waved good-bye, the head nodding will also be mixed with both nostalgia and possibly tears; that was then and it was good, but this is now, and we are moving into uncharted waters.
“I want to remind myself and you that, even in this new phase of life, we can step into our struggles with confidence, knowing that God’s grace will fill our gaps,” she says in her introduction. “Wherever this book finds you, whatever challenges you face as your family grows, shifts, and changes, I invite you to see that God is in your gaps.”
Bean travels back and forth in time in this book, in much the same way we all do when beginning a new phase of life, remembering the past while anticipating the future. In Chapter One, for instance, as she is helping her daughter, Juliette, prepare to leave for college, Bean reflects back to when this now 18-year-old was just a baby. Inevitably, the questions arise: “This wasn’t the end of all the things, but it was the end of many things, and in that moment I was left to wonder if all that I had said and done was enough,” she says. “If during all those exhausting days where I was Mama to a tiny, needy Juliette, I had done enough, said enough, given enough, taught enough, loved enough.”
Even cleaning out closets and kitchen drawers called forth memories and became times heavy with feeling. “I would clutch an impossibly small baseball jersey with ‘BEAN’ printed on the back of it to my chest and catch my breath,” she says. “Give thanks and let go. This is becoming a new mantra for me.”
Of course, it is God who fills in our gaps where we, as human beings, either ache or come up short, and this is the underlying message in all the stories Bean tells. Since she and her husband have eight children, there is no lack of material for her to draw from; she manages to combine laughter and tears, as well as honest, bone-numbing struggles with moments of exquisite peace and joy. In all of it, she finds her solace in knowing that God is right there beside her. “We may have tears and we may have regrets, but we have hope too — great big doses of hope that fill our gaps and then some,” she concludes. “I am grateful for the chance to have poured a part of myself into these beautiful souls we give back to God as we send them into the world.”
Danielle Bean is the brand manager at CatholicMom.com and a Catholic podcaster. She has been married to her husband, Dan, for 23 years, and together they have eight children.
“In my blog, books, podcast and newsletter, I share honestly about faith, family and the struggles of motherhood,” she says. “I offer… encouragement and empowerment in the role God created you to play in your home and family.”
Bean and her family live in New Hampshire.